The NaNoWriMo challenge

For years I have heard about NaNoWriMo – a month to write a 50,000 word novel. I have always been intrigued by the idea of it, by having to force yourself to sit down and write because there is an actual deadline to make an achievement by. Normally, I forget all about it until half way through November, by which point I decide there’s no point starting late.

But not this year. A few weeks ago, during one of my regular ‘I must think of some new ideas to keep my brain in shape’ sessions, I came up with the idea for a novel and I was really excited by it.

Instead of doing my usual; rushing into writing, quickly growing frustrated and giving up before the novel has even begun, I decided to hold on to it and save it for November. Safe to say, I am looking for to November 1st. However, there’s a lot to be done before then.

I don’t like writing without a rough plan. I won’t allow myself to write any words of the actual novel before the start date, but I need to plan out characters, a rough plot line and the core events, otherwise I know my writing will turn a scrambled jumble of junk.

With just over three weeks to go, my preparations have begun. I’ve join NaNaWriMo.org (Username: JenniferCW26 if you’ve also signed up and want to find me), created my novel and I’m ready to go. I’ll be sharing updates on my progress as I go. Here’s hoping by November 30th I’m celebrating hitting 50,000, not still staring at a blank piece of paper!

My NaNoWriMo Novel

NDA – After a whirlwind night of drinks, dancing and daring moves, Ellie wakes up in the bed of a stranger. A rich, attractive, very famous stranger.

But when Ellie discovers her celebrity one night stand is going to have a much longer lasting effect on her life, she is thrown into a world of secrecy and lies, and forced to sign away all rights to the truth through a legally binding NDA.

Ellie’s realises path to motherhood isn’t going to be easy.

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When bad days make things better

This hasn’t been a good week.

Sometimes I have days, occasionally an entire week, where the world just doesn’t feel right. This week was one of those weeks.

It started on Tuesday. It was a perfectly normal day, no reason for me to see it as any different to any other day. But then something small happened. Someone got offered something I wanted, and I didn’t. It wasn’t something I expected to get offered, but it was something I wanted and I didn’t get it. The minute I found out, I couldn’t stop feeling sad. Not ‘oh I’m a bit disappointed’ sad. I struggled to fight back tears the rest of the day, my heart beat raced, I felt uncontrollably upset, and found myself on a downward spiral of questioning everything about myself and my life. The logical part of my brain screamed at the emotional part that I was over reacting, that it wasn’t a big deal, and I knew it was right, and yet I couldn’t help my emotional explosion. It was almost painful.

Why am I am rambling on about this bad day I experienced? Because out of it, something brilliant happened for my writing.

I have been struggling with the seventh episode of my script for Hunters Ridge. It has quite a serious subject at the centre of it – the death of a lead characters father and the knock on emotional effect of his death. I have been trying to write this from a place of knowledge and experience – write what you know. Having been through a similar experience, I expected this to be easy. But for the past few weeks I have failed to get into the characters mindset, to understand how she would feel or why.

After my terrible day, I sat at the train station waiting for a train home (as I am right now, writing this). I opened the app I write my scripts on, and stared at the same page I have stared at every day for the past two weeks. And there it was, out of my terrible mood, the sudden spark. Finally I understood how she felt, understood the uncontrollable outburst of emotion. I felt her helplessness. It all felt real to me. And I used it. I started typing and I didn’t stop until my train pulled up at my local station almost an hour later. The dialogue I had struggled with just flowed from me, believable and truthful. My darkness sat on the page as beautiful, wonderful writing.

That darkness isn’t fun, I can tell you that much. But for once, I found a way to deal with it. I didn’t bottle it up and try to push it away, pretend it didn’t exist. I used it, to create something I can look back at proudly.

We all have our dark days, the triggers that set us off on the downward spiral. But for once, I realised that darkness doesn’t have to be all bad.

Now I’m off to have a weekend of doing nothing. Because sometimes, we need to give our minds a rest. Mental health is as important as physical.

My valedictorian speech

There’s be no time to write this week. My job has taken over all of my spare time and my characters are in my brain screaming at me to set them free, to let them live and develop their lives. In the meantime, I wanted to share what I had so far for my latest writing piece.

A few weeks ago on this very blog I wrote about the research I was doing into Valedictorian speeches. So here, for those of you who have been kind enough to keep reading my ramblings, is that very speech. Feedback is always appreciated.

Picture, if you will, a crowded graduation ceremony. The year: 2007. Our characters, Evie, Logan, Seth and Brandon, sit amongst their follow students, whilst Millie, a blonde cheerleader with something to prove, strides confidently onto the stage. She stands, looks out to her students and begins:

“Principle Harris, esteemed faculty members, family, friends and, most importantly, my wonderful classmates, I would like to thank you all for letting me speak to you today. I may be blonde, and a cheerleader, but I am not a stereotype. Standing here today, as your valedictorian, I feel it is important for you all to know that we are not what people label us as, we are what we can achieve. I hope that is one of the many lessons that we are able to take away from the four years we have spent here at Hunters Ridge High.

To our parents who are here today, supporting us as they have throughout our high school lives, through our best days and our worst, thank you for always being there, for standing beside us even when you may not have agreed with all the choices we have made. We wouldn’t be here without you.

To the teachers who have gotten us to this day, who have shared their knowledge and helped us learn all that we now know. To Ms Fields, who taught us to always read between the lines and to Mr Golding who encouraged each and every one us to see that it is more than knowledge we gain through our high school years, it is a better understanding of who we are as people.

And my fellow students. Every day for the past four years we have spent hours together, learning from our teachers, but also learning from each other. I will never forget what you have all taught me.

Logan taught me that love is not something you earn, but something you give with all your heart, to those who mean the world to you. Seth’s support and wise words, even in the face of his own struggles, helped me through the toughest times, for which I am more grateful than words can express. Evie made me realise that strength comes from those who are by your side, no matter what. And Brandon Parker showed me that it is possible to actually enjoy a game of football.

Above all else, what we should take from our experiences throughout high school, is that success is not something accomplished alone, but together we can achieve greatness. Our time at Hunters Ridge High has had its ups and downs, but it is these moments both difficult and joyous which we will forever remember. Our high school experience will help us to handle the complications that life throws at us in the future. Whether these are the best days of our lives, or just the beginning, is yet to be seen. But no matter whether your next chapter is college, or your own different adventure, we should all be confident that our time at Hunters Ridge High has prepared us to face anything.

Now as we sign each other’s yearbooks, take our diplomas and say our final goodbyes, I hope we can all agree that we will never forget each other, that the friendships and love that we have experienced over these past four years, will stay with us forever.

Finally, Douglas Adams wrote, in ‘The Long Dark Tea-Time of Soul’, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Our journeys through the halls of Hunters Ridge High may not have been those that we expected, but I am proud of where we have come to be.

Family, friends and faculty,  would you please help me in congratulating The Class of 2007.”

The crowd cheers as they graduate to the next stage of their lives.

Thanks everyone!

Jx

Chapter 6 – Editing

This week has been all about editing. I hit a stump in my inspiration to write anything new, so I took the opportunity to read back through the past 5 scripts I have written. It made me realise two things:

  1. There are always edits to be made. No matter how finished you think a piece may be, you can always find something to change and improve. As I’ve been writing these scripts over the past year and a half, I’ve gotten to know the characters as if they were real people. Now, when I read back through older episodes I realise that lines of dialogue I have written, no longer sound like the characters they have become.
  2. It’s important to re-read previous episodes before continuing. In a few of the old episodes, I noticed that some of the situations I had put the characters into, or the dialogue I had written, contradicts something that happens in later episodes. I have an entire scene I now have to re-write because almost the exact same scene already occurs in an earlier episode, I’d just written it so long ago I had forgotten.

It’s all well and good reading back through a script, but the real editing doesn’t begin until you’ve gotten out the red pen. There is something deeply satisfying about scribbling all over a piece of writing, in that lovely shade of red, knowing you are looking at it from a totally different angle. The editing process can be vicious, it can completely change a piece of writing, but it can hold that revolutionary moment when something that you have struggled to get right, suddenly clicks into place, when the excitement and thrill of writing is reignited by just one change.

So today I begin the  detailed editing phase of my current work on Hunters Ridge. I have six episodes to go through and I hope, after this latest edit, I will start to get to the point of having  piece of writing I am happy enough with to start trying to make something of it. That is my goal.

Chapter 4: The First Chapter

I realise the title of this post doesn’t immediately make sense.

After posting yesterday’s blog I spent my entire day writing. The first chapter of my as yet untitled project took the entire day, but by bedtime, it was written. I’m sure I’ll re-write most of it, that I’ll tear it apart being hyper critical. But for now, it’s done. I have started.

The chapter is 3000 words. It was a very start-stop process, I wrote a few hundred words, got distracted by something, came back a while later and added another paragraph. I found a spurt of inspiration later in the day, helping me to reach the finish line. And hitting that final full stop of Chapter 1 felt like an achievement.

Then this morning, doubt started to creep in. What if none of it was any good? What was the point? Would I ever really make it beyond my usual stopping point?

If I’m honest, after all that writing the bit I am most happy with is the opening. Hours of writing and the beginning was the best part. This is what I struggle with, that crushing disappointment that I can’t help but feel, when a story that my mind creates, never quite matches with the words on paper. Surely confidence in my own skills will come with time, with practise, with editing, at least that’s what I hope.

A plan for Chapter 2 arrived on a train this evening, it’s sitting on my phone ready to go. And suddenly I was refilled with confidence, excitement, inspiration. I walked home full of ambition, a plan to write another entire chapter before I go to sleep.

But as I sit here now, my fingers want to write, to stay up for hours and push on, give Marie Austen more in her life. Meanwhile, my mind is tired from the first day of a new job, the TV is playing and my resolve to write is waning.

As I try to decide whether to continue my story, here’s the opening for you to read.

Marie Austen lay staring at the ceiling, the soft blanket draped loosely across her curvy frame. She stared at the off-white ceiling, her curly brunette hair scrunched below her against the pillow, her own gentle breaths the only sound she could hear. She closed her eyes and sighed, already aware that she would regret her decision. 

Rolling onto her side, closing her eyes, Marie pretended to sleep. The bathroom door opened, her lover done with his post coitus shower. He pulled the cover back slightly, climbing under the blanket beside her. His muscular arm snaked around her waist, his legs intertwined with hers, she could smell the sweet scent of his watermelon shampoo. He held her close, softly kissing her shoulder blade as his wet hair left cold drops of water sliding across her skin. Together they lay silently in each other’s company.